Neck pain is second only to low back pain as the most common musculoskeletal disorder presenting to health practitioners.
Neck pain often results in high levels of discomfort and disability with recent studies suggesting that at least 80% of people will experience a significant episode of acute pain at some point in their lives.
Your neck is a complex interlocking structure consisting of several bones, joints, nerves muscles, tendons and ligaments burdened with the challenging task of supporting and moving the human head (around 5kg) whilst keeping the eyes level with the horizon.
As a result of tension, trauma and poor postural habits inherent in today’s workplace, spinal tissues are exposed to continued compression, they deform and go through a transformation that can become permanent. This can lead to forward movement of your head in front of your shoulders and a tightening of your upper back muscles known as upper crossed syndrome.
The extra pressure imposed on the neck from poor posture flattens the normal cervical curve resulting in abnormal strain on muscles, ligaments, fascia and bones. For every inch your head moves forward it gains 4.5kg in weight as far as the supporting structures in your neck and upper back are concerned. They are now in a struggle to isometrically restrain the additional weight of this new head position against the unrelenting force of gravity.
Correction of Upper Crossed neck posture is key to stopping and preventing degenerative joint disease and pain from headaches, rib and jaw dysfunction.
10 Tips to Avoid Neck pain
1. Exercise is great for our entire body but can also help to prevent and treat neck pain in most people. By strengthening the muscles, you can make your neck more resistant to stress as well as improving blood supply and circulation.
2. Stay hydrated by drinking between 2-3L of water a day as this will help to keep your discs, muscles and joints lubricated and working efficiently to deal with the every day activities.
3. Minimize time spent in sustained strenuous positions. This places undue stresses on the supporting muscles and ligaments, which can weaken the structures necessary to protect your neck during movement.
4. Avoid over working your anterior muscles (pectorals, subscapularis) in the gym which are already overactive from sitting. Instead focus on the posterior muscles of your back such as your rhomboids and lower trapezeius to restore postural integrity.
5. Regular stretching and micro breaks from extended periods of sitting will help keep muscles and joints moving well. Breaking up sitting periods every 20 minutes with a quick stretch has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of neck related symptoms.
6. Set up your desk correctly to reduce the strain on your neck. Utilizing a large computer monitor set directly in front of you at slightly lower than eye height will allow you to maintain a relaxed head position. The placement of your screen, documents, and devices largely determines your neck and shoulder posture. Try enlarging your documents and webpages to make text easier to read so you don’t have to lean forward.
7. A quality chiropractic pillow will follow the natural contours of your neck instead of leaving it unsupported. Sleep on your side or your back and avoid sleeping on your stomach as this places the joints of your neck under strain for hours at a time.
8. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga will help to decrease muscular tension stored in your neck and upper back which encourages correct diaphragmatic breathing patterns.
9. Adjust your car seat so that the backrest is set upright with a slight decline and your steering wheel is arms distance away from your body to help maintain your posture and keep your shoulders and neck in a relaxed position. Try lifting your rear view mirror up slightly higher than you need it to encourage yourself to sit tall during your journey.
10. Regular chiropractic check ups can keep your entire spine and nervous system functioning at an optimal level. Using chiropractic adjustments and mobilizations, specific soft tissue releases and facilitating stretching techniques a chiropractor will aim to restore lost motion and correct faulty movement patterns to reduce your symptoms and provide you with useful preventative strategies.
- Miller GA, D’Sylva J, Burnie SJ. Manipulation or mobilisation for neck pain: a Cochrane Review. Manual Therapy. 2010 Aug;15(4):315-33.
- Halderman et al. Clinical Practice Implications of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders: From Concepts and Findings to Recommendations. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2009 Feb 32(2):227-243.